British jet-setter Peter Clifford, the manager of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup in Europe, has come up with a cunning plan.
Clifford has been trying for many years to create some form of ‘off-season’ training programme for northern hemisphere road-racers in New Zealand over the Southern Hemisphere summer.
He feels it just might be possible for a few young superstars of the future to arrive to race in New Zealand this coming season.
The former editor of the popular Motocourse annuals, Clifford’s plan was to base this at his New Zealand property, just outside Wanganui. But for many reasons he was never quite able to get it off the ground.
Then in stepped Moto Academy New Zealand operators Mike Reps and Steve Bagshaw.
The men visited Clifford at the end of 2008 to try to formulate a plan.
“With the establishment of Moto Academy NZ there now existed an infrastructure through which we might operate such an off-season training programme for young riders from Europe, USA and other parts of the world,” said Palmerston North-based Bagshaw.
“So we planned to select about four Rookies Cup riders from 2009 or maybe from the 2010 intake. These riders would be those who look like they need a bit of extra work. We would bring these riders to New Zealand over our summer 2009/10 and they would gain extra bike and track time by training and racing in our New Zealand Superbike Championships, racing in the 125GP class.
“Simultaneously, we will run at least two Moto Academy NZ riders with them so that they gain from the experience also.
“The plan is that the riders would not be the ‘stars’ of the Rookies Cup, as they are already stars, but the riders that look like they have something going on, but are struggling for whatever reasons. The rationale behind this being not only that these riders would get some additional experience and exposure, but also that our local riders ‘should’ be able to compete with them, rather than be blown away by them.
“This will give our riders some exposure and also some added confidence that they can compete on the international scale,” said Bagshaw.
“This is not an exercise aimed at winning the NZ championship. It is aimed at providing experience and training to Rookies Cup riders and to local riders,” he said.
One of the local riders in the team will be Lower Hutt racer Kyle Hammond (pictured above)
“The bikes and infrastructure will be provided by Moto Academy International Ltd, a separate company set up to manage this initiative.
“So, in the first year, we are expected to provide funding for all aspects of the initiative (airline tickets for riders, bikes, parts, transport, accommodation, etc) with the aim that subsequently a large branding sponsor (e.g. Red Bull) will take on support of the initiative.”
The Interislander (ferry company) has already come to the party to offer support to the team.
“We are frantically searching for further support for this activity so that we might get it off the ground. We already have several suppliers on board with discounted support (CKT Technical, Race Supplies, W White Wholesale, Tyrewarmers.co.nz, Dunlop) but are actively seeking further financial support.
“We are also putting together plans to further develop this initiative into the future to become a general off-season training and racing destination for trainee racers from other parts of the world, such as Asia, China and the middle east and of course Europe.
“Initially we will concentrate on the 125GP market, but there is scope for this to expand into other machines, such as maybe the 450/600 style bike, or 250 four-stroke GP bikes.”
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com